Data management on animal resources for evidence-based decision making requires effort and investment to ensure that the animal resources sector as a whole contributes to economic development. Based on this notion, the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) is advancing the implementation of its current strategy through its fourth strategic focus on “Animal Resources Information and Knowledge Management”. With the objective to improve creation, dissemination and utilization of knowledge for effective animal resource development, AU-IBAR is undertaking a series of trainings on the use of the third version of the Animal Resources Information System (ARIS).
After a launch by Her Excellency Madam Josefa Sacko, the African Union Commission Commissioner of the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture on 12th June 2019, the first series of trainings began in July 2019 and are expected to end in December 2019. The trainings are targeting 110 National Focal Point persons from Africa Union Member States from all five Regional Economic Communities. The first workshop, held from 1st – 5th July, 2019, marked the first stage of the roll out of ARIS 3.
Speaking during the opening of the first training held in Nairobi, Kenya, AU-IBAR’s Director, Prof. Ahmed Elsawahy noted the importance of Information and Knowledge Management’s role in supporting AU-IBAR’s strategic niche. He further confirmed the importance of a good information system for planning and decision making, and for promotion of trade and investment in the animal resources sector. He particularly asserted the importance of good credible harmonised data in expanding intra-African trade within the context of leveraging the African continental free trade area. Significantly, he affirmed that ARIS 3, unlike the previous versions of ARIS has more advanced features critical to for evidence-based policy and decisions making processes.
Technological challenges to knowledge management previously experienced with the previous systems include inadequate integration of existing databases, and limited inter-operability. Conversely, the lack of integrated modern information systems at national level and outside ministries responsible for animal resources is one of the major obstacles for enhanced planning. Due to their incomprehensiveness, the previous versions of ARIS created setbacks in creating functional linkages between different data sources.
On their part, participants from regional States noted that the new upgrade of ARIS has a lot of advantages.
The additional bonus with ARIS 3 are the enhanced features such as better interoperability with open systems and integration of the main open data formats that will enable better collection and management of information in all areas of animal resources.
For this reason, ARIS 3 meets recent adopted criteria of the FAIR guiding principles for better data management and stewardship – setting a pathway for countries and regions to earn more return from animal information that is findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable.
Countries are being offered backstopping support for continued operationalization of the system after each training. Participants in each training have been encouraged need to understand their responsibilities in ensuring that the system is operationalised by having data submitters at the national level understand how to use the system. AU-IBAR’s Director, Prof. Elsawahy accentuated the need for the key resource persons to roll out ARIS 3 at the national level, with support from AU-IBAR’s ARIS team and the Regional Economic Communities. He further remarked that AU-IBAR would provide support for the continued operation of ARIS 3, by hosting the system servers and other infrastructure. AU-IBAR would also provide support to Member States by maintaining their portals for sharing information and publications within the ARIS 3.
The initial development of ARIS was principally funded by the African Union Commission through its regular budget. The current maintenance of the system, including the development and overhaul of the system from previous versions is being supported by the European Union through various projects (Fisheries Governance, Bee health and Genetics projects). The National trainings and backstopping missions in future will be funded jointly by the African Union Commission’s regular budget and the European Union through the Sustainable Development of Livestock for Livelihoods in Africa Programme (Live2Africa) project funds.
Under the Live2Africa, additional activities relating to the operationalisation of ARIS 3 shall include development of trade & marketing; animal production and animal health modules; Supporting the operations of E-FORA; building African Union Member States and Regional Economic Communities capacity for data collection, analysis, action planning, domestication of the Livestock Development Strategy for Africa (LiDeSA) and monitoring of investments in the livestock sector, including building capacities of stakeholders on Livestock Marketing Information System. ARIS 3 shall also be instrumental in broadening the establishment and operationalization of data working groups within the National Policy Hubs and Electronic Fish Market Information system (EFMIS).
Like the other versions of ARIS, ARIS 3 is expected to further enhance the capacities of AU-IBAR, the RECs and the member states to collect up-to-date and reliable animal resources data and information, as well as promote sharing of information and knowledge to support planning and decision making. In the long ran, effective use of the tool will support the development of analytics on animal resources for the contribution to livelihoods and GDP, as well as tracking the level of investments by Member States and the private sector.